Philly and Philthy alike have made themselves quite familiar with Tristen Gaspadarek (better known as, simply “Tristen”) over the past several years. However, I think it’s safe to say that the Tristen of 2013 is a new Tristen. We previously knew the Nashville-based songstress for a sassy brand of alt country. However, her latest release, C A V E S, which was released this October, has her exploring postmodern musicality, channeling her (news to us) love of post-punk, synth pop, new wave, and even krautrock. The album is certainly her most playful, popular, and synthetically-produced, however her songwriting remains boldly grounded. She has said that the root of the album’s inspiration was the idea of taking something typically considered cheaply popular and making it sound legitimately good. She has a December 20th date scheduled in Chicago at the Music Loft at Fizz, along with a small handful of January and February dates but, in a recent chat, she assured me that she has quite a bit more of touring behind C A V E S planned for 2014.
Izzy Cihak: You’re based out of Nashville, which has an awesome music scene. What are your thoughts on the city? Any particular favorite local peers?
Tristen Gaspardarek: We do have an amazing local scene. My favorites are Caitlin Rose, William Tyler, Those Darlins, Natural Child, PUJOL, Cortney Tidwell, D Watusi, and I’m forgetting so many others. Really, we have an amazing group of folks here.
IC: What have been your highlights of 2013?
TG: 2013 has been a pretty quiet year for me. I finished C A V E S in November of 2012, and spent this year playing in my studio. I guess my favorite moment would be seeing Bjork perform at Bonnaroo. It was an amazing experience for me.
IC: How do you feel as though C A V E S relates to earlier releases? Would you consider it to be an evolution of your sound?
TG: It’s by far the best sounding record I’ve ever made. It was also a big challenge into uncharted territory for me. It was ambitious. I think it’s a good representation also of where I was when I was making it. I had just got into drum machines, building beats myself, and wrote most of the songs on organ. I was able to pull in some great help from my husband/guitar player Buddy Hughen, local musicians around town, Mike Mogis, and Stephen Hague.
IC: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences?
TG: The album’s most significant influences would be human nature, The Beatles, David Bowie, Bertrand Russell, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Echo and the Bunnymen, nature’s beauty, HBO TV, Prince, Madonna, Kraftwerk, Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton and love.
IC: Do you have a favorite album track, whether one that you’re most proud of, or one that’s just especially exciting to play? I’m especially fond of “Easy Out” and “Dark Matter.”
TG: It’s funny, I always like the last thing I wrote the best, so my favorite song is “Winter Night,” with the vocal harmonizer. The other ones have been through such brutal surgery I haven’t had enough time away to relate to them again.
IC: The album was produced by legendary post-punk/new wave producer Stephen Hague. How was working with him? What did he bring to your sound?
TG: Stephen is an amazing musician and a pioneer of digital recording. Brilliant mixer, opinionated as he should be, and an all around badass record producer. He brought drum beats, loops, bass playing, and his infinite wisdom.
IC: For that matter, do you have any favorite works of Hague? He has quite a resume.
TG: To name a few songs:
To name a few albums:
New Order – Republic
OMD – Crush
Souxsie and the Banshees – Superstition
The Pretenders- Viva el Amor
IC: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city. You’ve played here a number of times. Any favorite memories?
TG: Yeah, I love Philly. It’s gritty in a good way. I like the way the architecture is so low to the ground. It’s a really beautiful place. I’ve played the North Star Bar a bunch, some great memories of house shows on the south side once with a buncha punk rockers. I enjoyed playing at Jonny Brenda’s a couple years back and then had a most excellent piece of pie down the street from Theatre of the Living Arts last year.
IC: While we’re talking about things “other than the music,” I have to say that you have a really fucking cool sense of fashion. What does that draw inspiration from?
TG: No self actualization, only self decoration. Pffff, in defense of myself, in times of boredom, we humans do like decorating ourselves. I think it’s a form of self expression for me, like everybody else. I indulge fully in the luxury of picking out something to wear. I also have an amazing stylist, photographer friend, Bekah Cope, who unloads her thrifting/hoarding habit into my basement. So I’m lucky…
IC: And finally, what are your most significant hopes and plans for 2014?
TG: Writing songs, starting a new record, touring in support of my latest, C A V E S.